Meryl Streep continued her criticism of President Donald Trump, defended her now-infamous Golden Globes acceptance speech and vowed to “stand up” against “brownshirts” and “trolls” during her acceptance speech Saturday night at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual New York City dinner gala.
In a wide-ranging speech, while accepting the National Ally for Equality Award at the dinner, the 67-year-old Oscar-winning actress lamented that “fundamentalists of every stripe” are seeking to undo the United States’ progress on civil rights and dedicated her honor to her gay and transgender teachers, mentors and colleagues.
At the outset, Streep defended her acceptance speech from January’s Golden Globes, in which she implied that professional football and mixed martial arts do not count as “the arts.”
“First of all, I do like football. Let me just make that clear. I gave seven years, seven of my youngest, prettiest years to being a cheerleader for football, basketball, and wrestling,” Streep said, according to a transcript provided by the Hollywood Reporter. “If you overhear a woman in a restaurant say, ‘My son is very interested in the arts,’ she probably doesn’t mean football or mixed martial arts.”
“They are just not the same thing,” she added. ” Look, some of us like football, some of us like the arts, many of us require both in our lives. I was making a joke. Some people missed it.”
Streep went on to discuss the impact that two of her teachers had on her while she was growing up in middle-class New Jersey; her transgender elementary school music teacher, Paul Grossman, and her gay piano teacher George Vauss.
“I am not going to introduce you to all my gay teachers,” she explained, “just some of the most influential personalities in my past, the memorable people who made me an artist and who lived, unnecessarily, under duress.”
The actress — who earned her 20th Oscar nomination this year for her role in Florence Foster Jenkins — continued by describing the male-dominated cultures of the past 40,000 years before saying that sometime in the 20th century, “the clouds parted.”
“Something changed. For the first time in 39,999 years, women began to be regarded as, if not equal, at least deserving of equal rights,” Streep said. “Men and women of color demanded their equal rights. People of sexual orientation and gender identification outside the status quo also demanded equal regard under the law. So did people with disabilities. We all won rights that had already been granted us, in theory, in our Constitution two centuries before; but the courts and society finally caught up and recognized our claims.”
Then, without mentioning him by name, Streep launched into a tirade against President Trump.
The actress said:
“If we live through this precarious moment, if his catastrophic instinct to retaliate doesn’t lead us to nuclear winter, we will have much to thank our current leader for. He will have woken us up to how fragile freedom is. His whisperers will have alerted us to potential flaws in the balance of power in government. To how we have relied on the goodwill and selflessness of most previous occupants of the Oval Office. How quaint notions of custom, honor and duty compelled them to adhere to certain practices of transparency and responsibility. To how it all can be ignored. How the authority of the executive, in the hands of a self-dealer, can be wielded against the people, their Constitution and Bill of Rights. The whip of the executive, through a Twitter feed, can lash and intimidate, punish and humiliate, delegitimize the press and imagined enemies with spasmodic regularity and easily provoked predictability.”
In closing, Streep said that she felt compelled to “stand up” and “act up” in the face of “troll attacks” and “armies of brownshirts,” even though she would prefer not to do so.
“It’s hard to stand up. I don’t want to do it. I want to read and garden and load the dishwasher. It’s embarrassing and terrifying to put the target on your forehead,” she said. “And it sets you up for troll attacks and armies of brownshirts and bots and worse, and the only way you can do it is if you feel you have to. You have to. You have no choice, but you have to speak up and stand up and act up.”
Read Streep’s full acceptance speech at the Hollywood Reporter.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum